Hey, Kiddo (paperback)
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Hey, Kiddo is a memoir written about the author’s childhood. He was born to a heroin-addicted mother, and his grandparents quickly gained custody of him. Although he was born healthy, his mother quickly spiraled and was in and out of his life (and jail). His grandparents, although stable, both had problems with alcohol and his grandmother, although she adored him, was very cold and verbally abusive to others at times. Jarrett survived by creating comics and drawings, staying in touch with his mother’s siblings, and doing his best to live the best he could, drug free.
What I liked about this book was that it tells a true story of a boy who had a lot against him, but he persevered and came out on top. I know many of my students have people in their homes who drink or do drugs. How do I know? They’ve told me. I hear about their parents passing out on the couch, drinking too much beer, taking pills and sleeping all day, etc. This story gives hope to the ones who do not have a stable home life, but have perseverance to come out on top. Also, I liked the 90’s references. 🙂
What I didn’t like about this book was the way the grandmother Shirl spoke to Jarrett. I know she had her own issues and they had a loving relationship, but it broke my heart to hear her tell him to get out of the way of the tv and dismiss him.
Book 75 of 2018
Cardboard Kingdom (paperback)
by Chad Sell
Cardboard Kingdom is a graphic novel about some kids in a neighborhood who spend their summer creating alter ego super heroes, and costumes out of cardboard. Their super hero personalities are all exaggerations of their own personalities, and they are able to show their true colors. One has tons of stuffed animals and is the controller of animals, another is loud and gruff in real life, and has a bold, rough super hero personality, etc. There is one boy who is a sorceress as his super hero, but it is hinted that he might be gay or trans (in a very loving and accepting way). One boy seems to have a crush on another boy. There are many characters of color, as well as a bully.
What I liked about this book was the way it addressed diversity by featuring characters from all walks of life. Not only were there LGBTQ characters, but there was one who was not accepted by her grandmother for her loudness, one whose dad was an abuser, and the bully was actually being bullied himself. Another character’s mother was in an interracial relationship. I think the more diversity is seen in books, the more it will be accepted as the norm. Soon enough, kids won’t even blink, much less giggle, when two boys kiss or a character decides to dress as the opposite sex. I also loved how these kids played with each other and got along (for the most part) all summer! They were creative and didn’t watch tv or play video games. That’s so inspiring.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it didn’t really have a storyline. It seemed segmented and a series of shorter, somewhat connected stories, but later came together. I wasn’t particularly attached to anyone.
Book 72 of 2018
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (paperback)
by Dana Simpson
Phoebe is a third/fourth grader with a feisty, cynical personality who isn’t liked by the other kids in her class, especially the most popular girl. Phoebe finds herself with a unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, who gives her one wish. Phoebe wants to be friends with her. We learn some interesting things about unicorns, including they are self-centered, think humans are below them, and love a good lawn. Phoebe uses her snark to entertain the reader, but no one else finds her quite as funny.
What I liked about this book is it’s written in a series of comics, which don’t all have to be read in order. Nearly each page has a pun, joke, or punchline, and I found myself laughing out loud. I didn’t need to remember what happened the page before.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it is written for kids (I borrowed it from my third grade daughter), but there are a lot of things that might go over their heads. I was laughing out loud, but I can guarantee she didn’t understand it all. It is clever writing, and she will enjoy it when she’s older!
Book 9 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 55 of 2018)
Be Prepared (paperback)
by Vera Brosgol
Be Prepared is the second graphic novel I’ve read by Vera Brosgol (the first was Anya’s Ghost), and this is more autobiographical. The main character, Vera, is a Russian immigrant, and her main goal is to fit in with the more popular, American girls, but she is poor and Russian, and doesn’t look the same or have the nice dolls they have. She is discouraged, but learns there is a summer camp she can attend while the others girls attend their own summer camps. It is a camp for Russian American kids, and her mother finds a way to send her there. However, Vera finds herself in the same problem, trying to fit in with the popular girls, but she’s the youngest, smallest, and least cool. She declines help from the leader, and tries to make it on her own. Vera learns she can’t isolate herself, and has to get herself out of her predicament.
What I liked about this book is I think students will be able to relate to Vera’s problems while learning about summer camp and enjoying a graphic novel. Vera struggles to fit in, deals with the popular girls, and doesn’t understand what true friendship is, allowing herself to be used. She didn’t really put herself out there, and tried to be like the others. I could relate to that. Hopefully, this book will speak to some of my students who struggle with the same thing.
What I didn’t like about this book was the page with giant spider illustrations!
Book 2 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 48 of 2018)
Positively Izzy (paperback)
by Terri Libenson
Positively Izzy is a middle school story about a spacey girl named Izzy. She is always daydreaming, and misses important assignments or information, because her passion is acting, and she plans to be in the talent show. Brianna (Invisible Emmie’s best friend) is the brain, and she never has problems concentrating, but needs to loosen up and enjoy life a little more. Their lives both change on the day of the talent show. Although they aren’t friends at school, we see how their lives are connected in the end, and it will leave you shocked and wondering how you missed it.
What I liked about this story was the way Libenson developed these characters, involving the readers in their lives. We think we know what’s going on, and wonder how they’ll meet since these two independent characters are both performing in the talent show at the end. When I finished the book, I had to sit there and think about clues I missed. Then I realized the author just did a really good job of leaving no clues!
What I didn’t like about this story was that it left me wondering about the dad still… I think I need to go back and reread it.
Book 75 of 40
(Book 41 of 2018)
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King (paperback)
by Ben Hatke
I really enjoyed Mighty Jack, but it left me hanging. Mighty Jack and the Goblin King is the second installation, and as far as I know, Hatke only has or plans to write these two. Jack and Lilley have gone into the garden to look for Jack’s sister, who was captured by a giant. When they get there, they discover a world with Goblins (who turn out to be good), Giants (who are bad), and these weird rat things that chew through the vines and pipes. Jack and Lilley are separated, but both face danger in search of Jack’s sister. They make allies and fight the bad guys, and have a final challenge at the end that will appeal to all of my female students. It doesn’t leave us hanging, but segues into another of Hatke’s series by introducing us to some of his other characters.
What I liked about this book was the girl power. Lilley took charge and was given an important job where she faced tough choices, but came out on top. Jack had to rely on Lilley’s quick thinking a few times, which is a nice change up from “the boy saves the girl.” However, there was the porch scene that was a nice surprise.
What I didn’t like about this book was the way is was crammed in. I felt like there was potential for other parts to be developed and explained, but overall, Hatke did a great job of writing an engaging graphic novel for my sixth grade readers. And their teacher.
Book 55 of 40
(Book 21 of 2018)
The Nameless City (paperback)
by Faith Erin Hicks
The Nameless City is nameless due to it being conquered about every 30 years. Because of this, people in different parts of the city have given it different names. Kaidu is a boy who was born into his place in society, learning to fight to protect the city. He makes friends with a girl who is considered below him, someone who isn’t from the newer part. When they learn the king’s life is in danger, Kaidu and Rat must find a way to make sure he isn’t hurt, but at what expense?
What I liked about this book was that the characters have to look at priorities and the good of all, despite what has been widely accepted by the majority. They also see each other as friends instead of people from different social classes.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it wasn’t as engaging as I hoped. It actually took me a long time to finish since I read other books. I wasn’t glued to it like I am with graphic novels.
Book 42 of 40
(Book 8 of 2018)